Obituary: Prof. Judah L. Schwartz my Master thesis advisor left us due to #COVID19

Judah, Yehuda for me, was (and is) a seminal pillar in my life.

I first met him on my first day at Harvard as a young Israeli master student, assigned to some group to meet some mentor.

I remember vividly how this some mentor (from MIT and Harvard) welcomed me in perfect Hebrew, which — of course — made the entire event both eventless and eventful.

This was the beginning of 30+ years of mentorship and friendship. Judah was the kind of person you go to Harvard for: kind, smart, knowledgeable, pushy, creates opportunities, and a paragon mentor who squeezes the potential out of you, and then more.

He was my master adviser, I took his courses, and I was a teaching fellow for him; we did joint research on math education new kind of testing, and we were both members of the Technology in Education (TiE) program committee which I coordinated. Even more, he invited me to collaborate on the good old “Broken Calculator” software for the Mac.

From him, I learned to mix business with academia, ask the right questions, stand my ground, and get the big picture from the details. Mostly, I learned the value of being first to the market — for example, he was the only one in the faculty whose user name was his first name: “JUDAH” as opposed to the rest of us who were obliged to use their last name (since his grant got the school the entire computer :-).

He literally shaped my thinking for life with words. I know how to “guestimate” solutions (guest and estimate), and how to “thumberise” (summarize a book while flipping through it with my thumb).
In later years, he became a serial retiree — moving from MIT to Harvard, to Tuffes and back to Harvard. I admired his zeal and creativity and pray and plan to be as active as he was.

I will always have a virtual Judah in my mind’s eye, to help me in an interesting “times.” Still, I already miss the original Judah in my eye’s view.

My only consolation is that Judah is now working with God to better the world.

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